.Schering-Plough, soon to be taken over by Merck & Co, has posted net income of $767 million for the first quarter, compared to $276 billion in the like-year period (due to charges from its Organon acquisition), but sales have been badly hit by exchange rates.

Group turnover was down 6% to $4.4 billion, while pharmaceutical revenues were down 5% to $3.4 billion, amid declining sales from its cholesterol joint venture with Merck, which includes Vytorin (ezetimibe and simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe; see today’s Merck story). The anti-inflammatory Remicade (infliximab), the Johnson & Johnson drug which S-P sells outside the USA, grew just 2% to $518 million, while sales of the anti-allergy medication Nasonex (mometasone) were flat at $306 million,

The brain cancer drug Temodar (temozolomide) increased 5% to $247 million, while the hepatitis C treatment PegIntron (pegylated interferon) decreased 4% to $216 million, due to lower US sales. Revenues from the antihistamine Clarinex (desloratadine) fell 19% to $174 million, due mainly to the effects of currency.

As for products S-P got hold of through its $16 billion acquisition of Organon, unfavourable foreign exchange also impacted sales of Follistim/Puregon (follitropin beta), a fertility treatment, which fell 10% to $131 million, while the contraceptive Nuvaring contributed $115 million, up 19%.

Chief executive Fred Hassan said that in the quarter S-P “overcame difficult currency comparisons and challenges in the USA by driving operational sales growth in overseas markets” and continued to contain costs. Looking ahead to the company's Merck link-up, he said that “we will continue to implement our basic strategy: grow the top line, grow the pipeline, reduce costs and invest wisely".

He concluded by noting that many of S-P's key drugs should enjoy “long periods of expected exclusivity, with most protected well into the next decade”. At a time when many firms are facing “pipeline droughts and patent cliffs, we believe we're in the sweet spot on product flow and expected exclusivity. This gives us a special edge."